Priyamani: Manoj Bajpayee makes co-actors better
The actor, who makes her OTT platform debut with the upcoming The Family Man, talks about working for the small screen and why it’s ‘the big thing’
Before the advent of OTT platforms, it was generally believed that the small screen was the second home of actors who were past it. However, with the advent of the digital medium on even smaller screens, the kind of budgets and stars backing these shows, the small screen has risen beyond such condescension. Be it Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the Sacred Games or Emraan Hashmi in Bard of Blood or Radhika Apte in… every other series, it is clear that even the successful ones are getting involved in the digital space. "Web series and digital platforms are not the next big thing anymore. They are THE big thing," says actor Priyamani, who is making her digital debut with The Family Man, which will begin streaming on Amazon Prime from September 20.
The cinema connection in The Family Man—apart from Priyamani—still runs deep. The protagonist is played by National Award-winner, Manoj Bajpayee, and the series is directed by filmmaker duo, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK. What has prompted Priyamani to take the plunge into digital space? "Many actors out there are doing it. Even if not for a full-fledged role, I see them happy to be doing cameos. When I met the directors in Mumbai, and they narrated the character of Suchitra to me, I fell in love with her. It was not just with my character, actually; each character in The Family Man is well-written and have their own importance. The fact that brilliant minds like Raj and DK are behind this series, and that the content will be up on a platform like Amazon Prime was the driving factor behind me taking up this venture. I definitely think the content is worth binge-watching.”
The trailer of The Family Man, which released recently, suggests additional emphasis on Bajpayee’s character, Srikant Tiwari, and how he attempts to balance his espionage career with his middle-class life. Srikant hides his professional identity from his family, and pretends to work in a dreary 9-5 desk job. “Though the series primarily revolves around Manoj sir, my character, Suchitra, is important too. She's got a life of her own and has conflicts tooo. She’s switching jobs; her family equations are changing. She embodies the modern working woman who tries to balance the professional and personal front,” she says.
Suchitra’s problem concerns the lack of importance Srikant gives the family. “And then, there are the kids too she has to take care of. The kids bring a lot of humour into this story,” she says, and refuses to call their family dysfunctional. “But yes, there are tensions that are pulling Srikant and Suchitra apart. Though there is a strong undercurrent of love between the couple, the work pressure and other external factors make things difficult. It almost feels like they are together only for the sake of the children.”
Having been in cinema since 2004, and having worked with some of the biggest names in various languages, including Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada, how different was it to step into a new medium? "We shoot about 5-6 scenes a day, and everything is faster than it is in cinema. There is a multi-camera setup, and The Family Man was also shot in sync sound, which required the entire set to be silent. I had a lovely time working on the first season, and we have already begun shoot for the second season," says Priyamani.
It’s the first time in her career she has had an opportunity to work with Manoj Bajpayee. “He is a powerhouse of talent and is so natural in front of the camera. It is imperative for his co-actors to think on their toes because the kind of performance he brings to the table is so spontaneous," says Priyamani, adding that they underwent a lot of rehearsals before the shoot. "But the thing is, while rehearsing, he does a particular performance, but in front of the camera, he does something totally different that elevates the scene. It continuously challenges you. It is only when you work with actors like Manoj sir that you can improve your own acting ability."